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Plato & Socrates Study Guide for Patterson’s Engl 2111


On your maps, mark both to Greece.


On your timelines, mark Apology of Socrates & Socrates’ death in 399 B.C.


  • Entries in Reader’s Companion are very helpful.


  • Socrates did not have a “school” – so to speak; he also did not consider himself to be a “teacher”. Those who followed Socrates’ philosophies would have been Athenian young men from affluent families. These men would congregate with Socrates to discuss “truth…wisdom…honor…”, etc.


  • Socrates recorded/wrote none of his own thoughts. Plato, one of his students, wrote such.


  • Plato eventually founded his own school of philosophy – The Academy. This school would exist for approximately 900 years.


  • The genre of Plato’s Apology of Socrates is dramatic dialogue. Although the point of view indicates Socrates is speaking in first person, the work was actually composed by Plato based upon his remembrance of Socrates’ trial.


  • The word “apology” as it is used in this work means “defense.” The work tells of Socrates’ words, actions and behaviors during his trial for “corrupting the young men of Athens.” Apology reads almost like a lawyer defending himself in court.


The outline below does not follow the chronology of the work, but groups information and questions based upon themes. Thus, you will have to “flip back and forth” among the pages of the text:


  • Note the discussion of Apollo’s oracle regarding Socrates on ¶6. What was it?



  • What actions did Socrates take to prove this oracle true?


  • See ¶33, which relates to this oracle. What does Socrates say is his “duty”? Why would this “duty” potentially garner him many enemies?


  • From ¶10, whom does Socrates claim is actually the only wise being?


  • Note what Socrates says in ¶10 about the only “wisdom” man can attain. Then look in ¶28 at his discussion of “conceit that man knows what he does not know.” What does he mean by this?


-   Have you ever had an “ah ha!” moment when you realized there is more that you do not know than

    what you do know? If so, when was it?



  • From ¶27, analyze Socrates’ claim of “…a man who is good for anything ought not to calculate the chance of living or dying; he ought only to consider whether in doing anything he is doing right or wrong – acting the part of a good man or of a bad.” Ultimately, in ¶44  he claims “No evil can happen to a good man, either in life or in death.” What is he saying, and how does he define a “good” man?






  • In ¶28, read Socrates’ response which begins “Men of Athens, I honor and love you; but …” What two things does Socrates state are the “greatest improvements of the soul”?



  • Note on ¶15 the discussion referencing the 500 person citizen jury of Athens before whom Socrates was defending himself against the charge of corrupting the minds of Athens’ young men.


  • ¶15 and 16 are examples of Socrates’ “method” of instruction, which is based upon questioning students, then engaging them in further discussion by continuing his line of questioning. (In this example, he is actually questioning one of his accusers, however.) From this style we derive the current educational jargon of the “Socratic Method” of instruction.


  • Does Socrates ever admit that he did anything wrong?


  • Is Socrates found innocent or guilty?


  • Does Socrates bring his family to court to plead on his behalf?


  • What two possibilities does Socrates propose for humans after death?


  • Does Socrates believe the human soul is an eternal entity?

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